Climategate 3.0—Update: Hacker A Coder?

Whoever it was that snatched the cache of emails from prominent climatologists and created Climategate 1.0, then 2.0 has come forward, in a sort of way, to begin Climategate 3.0. He—sounds like a he, perhaps a Russian he?—sent an email to several climate scientists explaining why he did what he did, and including a password to open 200,000 files that have been previously hidden. (I wasn’t one of these; I don’t have the files nor the password.)

The hero/thief/activist/concerned citizen-of-the-world, call him what you will, I prefer jokester for this individual has a fine sense of humor, is clearly a computer geek and is careful covering his tracks. His missive can be read in several places, such as at Anthony Watt’s place.

I have not seen the file nor the password, but others have started burrowing through. Early results suggest, as Tom Nelson discovered, much boredom awaits. There has been a tidbit or two, such as one email from a serious, working, peer-reviewed and -reviewer climatologist that called Mann’s hockey stick “crap.” This curiously is the precise statistical word to describe Mann’s work, so perhaps it was a statistician and not climatologist who wrote those words.

This means the, the, THE, THE Consensus isn’t. Ah well.

The other (so far) slice of fun came from my pal Gav Schmidt, who in reaction to the refreshed controversy tweeted this:

This is the interest over time in Climategate. I must admit this curves tracks my attentiveness, too. But here’s why this is funny. A new email from Tom Wigley admits the pseudo-science (actually cheap journalism) of counting papers as proof of consensus or truth. After trying his own hand at counting citations, he said:

Analyses like these by people who don’t know the field are useless.
A good example is Naomi Oreskes work.

The press naturally loves Oreskes’s work, because journalists nearly always fall prey to and cherish the fallacy that interest equals truth. But Oreskes has always been engaged in persiflage.

So we now understand that plots of interest are a standard newsman’s dodge and reveal nothing but political hotness. This includes Gav’s plot, which is misleading even as a political thermometer, since it was taken before Climategate 3.0 hit.

Ah well, so much of science is theatre these days, yet another avenue for agitation. I’m guessing 3.0 doesn’t reach the peak that 1.0 or 2.0 did, since, though activist scientists haven’t yet ceased discovering new ways to announce the sky is falling, people have tired of hearing them.

But see this page for updates which I find of note.

Update May as well engage in amateur forensics. I think the hero-hacker is a coder. The facility with all things computer makes this easy to guess, but so does his language, which doesn’t sound like a scientist but with somebody who works with them. He also appears to be somebody who uses English for his day job, but whose native language is something else.

Probably a coder tasked with implementing parts of climate models (data assimilation, connectivity between modules, output generation, etc.) and who sees these creations resemble smelly sausage rather than prime rib. Somebody who is aware that the certainty and confidence publicly stated in the models is far more than is actually warranted.


  1. Gary

    Matt, do a Google Trend on “Real Climate” since 2009. Surprised?

  2. Speed

    “So we now understand that plots of interest are a standard newsman’s dodge … ”

    Since the job of the newsman is to deliver eyeballs to advertisers, such plots are the measure of his success. They are not, however, the measure of his truth, accuracy or insight.

  3. Ray

    The so called climate modelers are in effect claiming they can foretell the future and control the climate. They have never presented any evidence that they have the claimed ability. Now if these people claimed to be able to foretell the future with a crystal ball everyone would riducule them, But they use a computer so they are believable. Back when I worked in antenna design and used to do lots of computer programming we joked abbout garbage in gospel out.

  4. MattS

    “The hero/thief/activist/concerned citizen-of-the-world, call him what you will, I prefer jokester for this individual has a fine sense of humor, is clearly a computer geek and is careful covering his tracks.”

    I think the text of the latest email from FOIA points even more strongly then ever to FOIA being an insider and therefore a whistle-blower.

  5. Francisco

    I have a question for statisticians. What is the exact meaning of “robust” in statistics?

    I see that in the latest hockey stick concoction with proxies (Marcott et al) the authors say that their results after 1890 are “not robust”. So how is it that the most recent period in a 11,300 year reconstrucion is the least robust? Wouldn’t one expect robustness to decrease as time recedes? What do they mean?

  6. tom.w

    Professor Briggs, do you have answers to Francisco’s questions? Please share if you do.

  7. Noblesse Oblige

    @ Francisco: “What is the exact meaning of “robust” in statistics?”

    In this case, the answer is that “Not robust” allows the author to use the contstruction he likes in the publication and subsequent public appearances.

  8. Francisco

    @ Noblesse Oblige
    Thank you. So we could almost say that “not robust” is a privilege one can take on occasion to increase one’s freedom.

  9. DAV

    Hacker A Coder?

    Good a guess as any. Someone who obviously had access to the e-mail servers — something most of the people there would not have. So, likely a sys admin.

  10. Rich

    From “Principles of Exploratory Data Analysis” by J T Behrens:

    “Hoaglin, Mosteller, and Tukey (1983a) de-
    fined robustness as a concern for the degree to which
    statistics are insensitive to underlying assumptions.
    Mallows (1979) discussed three aspects of robust-
    ness: resistance, smoothness, and breadth. Resis-
    tance concerns being insensitive to minor pertur-
    bations in the data and weaknesses in the model
    used. Smoothness concerns the degree to which tech-
    niques are affected by gradual introduction of bad
    data. Breadth is the degree to which a statistic is
    applicable in a wide range of situations. Robustness
    is important in EDA because the underlying form of
    the data cannot always be presumed, and statistics
    that can be easily fooled (like the mean) may mis-

    Gotta love the Internet…

  11. JH

    One would expect the certainty of an estimate to erode as time recedes in the reconstruction of unknown past data.

    Note first that both the average and median are a measure (estimate) of central tendency. Consider the following data set: {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}. The average of the data set is 3, so is the median (the middle number).

    Suppose that the data point 5 is erroneously recorded as 50, which would be considered an outlier. That is, we now have a data set: {1, 2, 3, 4, 50}. While the average is changed to (1+2+3+4+50)/4 =12, the median remains 3 since it is still the middle number. The median value now seems to be a better measure of central tendency than the mean. It has not been affected by the outlier of 50, and is said to be robust against outliers.

    So “an estimate (or an estimation method) is not robust” means the estimate will be affected significantly due to a certain situation or assumption.

    Another example: an estimate or test is obtained based on the assumption that the data are generated from a normal distribution. A departure from the normality assumption may invalidate the estimate. So the estimate is not robust against the assumption.

    (Real data don’t follow a perfect normal distribution. Just like there are no perfect triangles in the real word, but it doesn’t stop us from applying mathematical properties of triangles to our real life. )

  12. TomVonk

    Hacker ? Coder ? I’d like to speculate a bit.
    to accept a tiny green inconvenience and then wallow in that righteous feeling,

    This kind of mastery of english is extremely rare. There are many more similar examples. For instance I speak and write english fluently but MrFOIA is better.
    3 possibilitiés
    – he is English and put up a cover by denying it (I don’t believe it much because that would make of him a liar what doesn’t seem to be consistent with the rest of his mail)
    – He belongs to the 0,001 % of europeans who have that level of mastery of english. In that case he would be almost necessarily scandinavian or dutch.
    – He has been educated in England. He might have been born in Finland or Denmark but went to England early and spent his school time there. This kind of mastery doesn’t come when english is learned too late.

    The odds for a mix of 2 and 3 seem overwhelming.
    He is not a hacker, he is an adult around or past 40.
    He has a high level english education (university) and a correct (but not spectacular) knowledge of computers.
    Then :
    Mr FOIA was born in Finland and was sent to an English school when he was 10 years old. He graduated at university of X in information system management. Spent 2 years at CRU in quality of system administrator. Left in 2010. Works currently as manager for an international private company.

  13. Yawrate

    Vonk, you dog…I love it!

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